A Celebration of Women Writers

"An Epic." by Mrs. E. M. Souville.
Publication: Eagle, Mary Kavanaugh Oldham, ed. The Congress of Women: Held in the Woman's Building, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, U. S. A., 1893. Chicago, Ill: Monarch Book Company, 1894. pp. 691-694.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 691] 

AN EPIC.

By MRS. E. M. SOUVILLE.

(Copyrighted 1892.)

MRS. E. M. SOUVILLE.

We greet thee, fair Columbia, sing to thee,
Wonder of nations! home of liberty!
A continent is thine. Thy realm how vast!
Here see thy children gathered, first and last,
To do thee homage on this day which gave
Thy form to sight above the ocean's wave.
Four hundred years–four centuries of years–
How many joys and sorrows, hopes and fears,
For earthly generations thou hast wrought,
And unto gladsome birth a new world brought.
To toil-worn, weary and care-burdened man
How slow thy passage, and how long thy span;
To nations, scarce a lifetime thou dost seem;
To ages of eternity, a dream,
A moment's stay, an evanescent guest;
As vivid lightnings flash thou vanishest.

Back through these fleeting years intently gaze,
Where, o'er the tangled web of history's maze,
A mind colossal towers into view;
And thou, Columbo! with unwilling crew,
Art scanning western horizon's blue line
Which yet unbroken lies. Still o'er the brine
Thine anxious eye perpetual watch maintained;
O'er thy frail deck, by courage high sustained,
Undaunted by adversity, dost go
Thy tedious round with steadfast heart; when, lo!
A bird on tired wing, from land a rover,
A messenger of hope; all fears are over;
Near is the port so eagerly desired–
The golden India. This ambition fired
Those sordid souls wide ocean's rage to dare,
And bold attempt the minds of jewels rare,
Whose fabled riches, told in distant Spain,
By repetition magnified again
Desire entranced. Belief now woke apace
In all his followers' breasts, and for a space
Upheld them. Greater and prolonged delay
Discouraged them once more, and on a day
When meeting was rampant 'twas proposed
To bind Columbus. He to this opposed
But three more days of waiting; then, indeed,

[Page 692] 

If no land cheered their failing hopes, with speed
He would return according to their will;
But give him three days yet, for good or ill.
For all his years of patient study, left
Three days to crown with triumph; or, bereft
Of opportunity and the laurel wreath
Of victory by those minds so far beneath
His own grand genius. Faith undimmed still shone
And nerved him those three days; although alone,
He braved derision, ridicule and scorn.
And when the third day came, on its bright morn
The sun arose, climbed high, and slowly set.
A waste of waters circled, but regret
Not then assailed Columbus; day was ended,
But westward, where the sky and water blended,
Obscured by sunsets softly fading glow,
He ceaseless vigil kept untiring, though
The twilight darkening fell upon the deep,
And stars appeared their nightly guard to keep.
As still he gazed and gazed, a sudden light
An instant gleamed on his enraptured sight.
Could he believe? Could hope and faith depart,
And blissful certainty possess his heart?
Not long he doubted, when again it came;
No more with transient beam, but steady flame.
He knew his work accomplished; ocean's bound
Was passed and measured–proved the world was round
And like the egg he used for demonstration
To others, great in influence and station,
Reputed wise, whose favor to attain
He argued, plead, desired and hoped in vain,
For Plato's "opposite continent" to find,
He dreamed not but to reach the farther Ind.
While yet he pondered, loudly surging out
From tall main-top-mast came the joyous shout
Of "Land! the Land!" the long wished land ahead!
Up rushed the crew, and quick the anchor sped
Down from its moorings. Now to him advanced
His followers all, and, bowing, hardly glanced
High as his face; but he, serene and calm,
Most graciously received them, and as balm
On painful wound, the words that from him fell
To their accusing conscience. It were well
To leave them thus, but truth compels the end,
And to that shameful story none can lend
A palliating circumstance or grace,
That aught detracts from its revolting face.

What then received he for this gift to men?
Attend, it shall be named, although the pen,
With trembling indignation scarce controlled,
Shrinks from the task its features to unfold.

Vile envy roused devouring jealousy,
Calumniation blighting touched, and he,
Through selfishness, was sacrificed by those
Pretended friends who secretly were foes.

[Page 693] 

For honor, degradation was his meed;
For gratitude, chains bound him, and his need
Gaunt poverty replenished; for a world,
A prison his reward: and when unfurled
Spain's banner, and the king the land possessed,
Another's name Columbo's right confessed.
Almost forgotten, then, he died; and now,
Four centuries scarce remembered, come to bow
Before his fame, as they of ancient days
The old and new world's gathered nations. Praise
And justice here we offer him; but wait,
Give justice it is said! nay, 'tis too late;
No justice now, but tardy honor pay
To him who over ocean led the way.

The scene is changed. In swift review years pass,
And many names mar history's page–alas!
For Cortez false, and Montezuma true,
Pizarro, and unfortunate Peru.
But haste away from pictures grim, and dwell
On things more pleasant far to hear and tell.

A rugged coast; a wintry wind that blows
A good ship onward; while each wave that rose
Around her gave but impulse toward the shore
Sought by these troubled hearts, to leave no more
This haven blest, where with untrammeled zeal
To worship God in freedom, and for weal
Or woe, as He in whom they trust might give,
A sturdy pilgrim band they hoped to live.

Full soon contentment reigned o'er all the land,
When once more on them fell oppression's hand.
Again the mighty sword must arbitrate.
So seven long dreary years throughout the state
War's tumult stalked. But peace at length returned,
And joined in league with liberty; they earned
By thrift prosperity and wealth, until
The land too strait became; so, over hill
And vale and prairies wild far west they Went,
Through strange vicissitudes and trials, sent
To prove them stanch and with all worthy traits
Of worthy sons of the United States.

Again the changing ages shift the scene
Where circling horizon sky and earth between
Surrounds the barren waste; a little band
Of hardy and adventurous spirits stand,
Resolved to conquer in life's battle stress–
Upbuild a state–transform the wilderness,
Make deserts blossom as the rose beside
A great metropolis, its people's pride:
So from the shore of Michigan's blue water
Chicago grew, our greatest, youngest daughter!
Most fitting that the latest born of all
The cities vast of this wide land should call
A universal celebration due
That glorious day of fourteen ninety-two.

[Page 694] 

As overhead in untrod realms of air
Above stupendous towers some mountain fair,
So soared Columbo's lofty thought, and grasped,
Within its compass, earth by ocean clasped,
And we, the monument of his genius great,
Do thus his name and fame commemorate.
While circumscribed within Chicago's halls,
Behold all nations; science all enthralls;
For strife assembled, but these fields are won,
With smokeless powder and with shotless gun,
With wonderful machines; with fabrics fine:
Electric marvels; treasures of the mine.
Here see rare sculptures; art and objects strange,
To elevate the mind, enlarge the range
Of thought; amuse, instruct in love and peace,
That with such gentle contests wars may cease.
Ye empires, kings, republics, now give ear
Unto our welcome! heartfelt welcome, here!

Our task is finished. Ere we part we pause,
For swift defying all of nature's laws,
Which limit to the past and present hour
Man's knowledge, and experience, and power;
A bright, prophetic vision, dimly seen,
Before us rises, robed in dazzling sheen,
And in the zenith of the heavens high,
An eagle, gray and hoary, cleaves the sky.
Eastward his flight, and hovering o'er the main,
Toward Europe gazes. In his own domain
Mount we with him, and through his clearer eye
View all on sea and land he can decry.

Where prairies stretched their treeless desolation,
Lo! fruitful fields and cities bless the nation;
Great navies swarm, and, like the birds in motion,
On every hand flit over sea and ocean,
While o'er them strange, and yet familiar seeming,
A banner waves, upon its azure gleaming
A single star displayed its rays, disclosing
Forms of a hundred stars, the one composing:
From sea to sea, from Frigid Zone to Torrid,
One Union bounds; and war's contentions horrid
Disturb no more. Sweet Truth, its form revealing
In beauteous garments; Justice, naught concealing,
Dispensing equally to equal worth,
With righteous judgment ruling all the earth.
See Might and Right now hand in hand united;
See brother's love by ample love requited;
Mild Peace attending, watching o'er the free,
Rewards mankind; and crowning Justice, see,
The land of Christopher Columbo named
No more America, but Columbia famed.


[Page 691] 

Mrs. E. M. Souville is of a family of the earliest colonial times. She has traveled in Europe and America. Mrs. Souville is a writer of some consequence. Her profession is that of literature, and she is a member of the American Protective Society of Authors. She is also an officer of the American Authors' Protection Publishing Company, located at The Potomac, Michigan Avenue and Thirtieth Street, Chicago, Ill. This company was incorporated during the Columbian Fair, and is one of the consequences of woman's co-operation and of the facilities afforded by the great Exposition. Her postoffice address is Jacksonville, Fla.

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

This chapter has been put on-line as part of the BUILD-A-BOOK Initiative at the
Celebration of Women Writers.
Initial text entry and proof-reading of this chapter were the work of volunteer
Mary Mark Ockerbloom.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom